The UK’s Department of Transport is launching a £10m (US$12m) fund for English ports in the run up to the October 31 to help prepare for the potential new processes and possible congestion which could arise in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Ports will be able to bid for grants of up to £1m (US$1.2m) each for infrastructure improvements as part of the Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity (PIRC) competition, which will be open until September 6.
However, Tim Morris, CEO of the UK Major Ports Group, claimed the time frame for the implementation and the small size of the fund would limit its benefit to ports.
He stated: “We welcome in principle all support for investment in ports. But we must be realistic about the extent of physical change possible between now and the end of October.
“The Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity (PIRC) Fund could make a difference at some locations and circumstances, particularly if it applied to storage and areas adjacent to core port operations. But it can’t be seen as a silver bullet for the risk of no-deal disruption and £10m (US$12m) should be seen in the context of the more than £600m (US$730m) UK port operators invest each year.”
He added: “The core task of government for Brexit preparation remains trader readiness. It is essential that [the] announcement is not just a one-off but is part of an ongoing commitment to strengthening the UK’s ports – gateways for 95% of the UK’s trade – post Brexit through improving planning rules and road and rail connectivity.”
The government is also providing £5m (US$6.1m) to four key Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) – made up of emergency responders, councils and other public services – in areas with key freight ports.
The LRF funding is targeted specifically at delivering infrastructure improvements to manage road traffic around maritime ports with important trade routes with the EU. This is meant to help them minimise any potential traffic disruption at the border.
A further £15m (US$18m) will go towards longer-term projects to boost road and rail links to ports and ensure more freight can get where it needs to be faster.
British transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are leaving the EU on October 31 and we will be prepared whatever the circumstances. As the UK continues to develop as an outward-facing global trading nation ready for a post-Brexit world, the resilience of our trading hubs is more critical than ever before.
“This £30m (US$36m) investment supports our ports in their work to boost capacity and efficiency, ensuring they’re ready for Brexit and a successful future.”
Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Port Association, said: “The industry is as ready as it can be for a ‘no deal’ although it is clear that this is about mitigating disruption at certain ports, not avoiding it.
“The potential challenges are not only for the likes of Dover but also other ports such as Holyhead, Immingham and Portsmouth that handle a mix of driven and unaccompanied vehicle freight between the UK and the EU, which currently flows through ports swiftly. There could also be wider issues for other ports which will rely on the HMRC’s systems to handle a huge increase in customs data.”